Tool trends: reciprocating saws, hammer drills most popular tools amongst contractors

April 30, 2013

CHICAGO — This March, CONTRACTOR surveyed readers to find out what are the most used corded and cordless power tools amongst contractors today, along with identifying types of construction involvement, assessing annual spending on power tools, and finding out where contractors prefer to purchase those tools. CONTRACTOR also picked the brains of some industry-specific tool manufacturers to find out what type of tool trends they are seeing and what they are forecasting for the future.

The online Power Tool Use Survey was sent to a net randomly selected 18,606 subscribers. Response rate was an effective 4.1% with the majority of respondents being company owners — 62% — and 15% of respondents being in leadership positions, such as president, CEO or partner. 

Survey findings show that 85% of respondents are involved in residential construction; 67% are involved in commercial construction; 25% are involved in industrial construction; and 20% are involved in institutional construction. Seventy-five percent of respondents are involved in remodeling/retrofit work and 25% are involved in new construction work. Regarding firm size, 69% said they employ one to nine persons, while 22% employ 10 to 49 persons and 10% employ 50 to 100 or more persons.

According to the survey, with the exception of floor drivers (11%), each corded power tool in the study is used by at least 48% of respondents. These corded power tools include the pipe threading machine, drill driver, demolition hammer, drain cleaning machine and pipe cutting machine. The most commonly used corded power tools include reciprocating saws at 86%, hammer drills at 82%, power drills at 81%, circular saws at 79% and rotary hammers at 70%.

For cordless power tools, the most commonly used are power drills at 82%, followed by drill drivers at 72% and reciprocating saws at 71%. About half of all respondents use cordless hammer drills (56%) and/or cordless circular saws (49%).

Manufacturers deliver tool solutions

Regarding cordless power tools, Chera M. Ellis, vice president and general manager of Rothenberger USA, a provider of pipe tools and machines in plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and gas and environmental technology, told CONTRACTOR that the company continues to see growth in its hydraulic cordless tools as end users recognize the advantages of crimping in both wet and dry applications.

“With traditional soldering the environment must be completely dry, but not with cordless press tools,” said Ellis. “This helps reduce both installation and repair time. The cordless tools are also ergonomically designed to provide less stress on the end-users’ arms and hands.”

According to Steve Richman, president of Milwaukee Electric Tool, at Milwaukee Tool the focus is about core end users, and those are mechanical contractors, plumbers, electricians, remodelers and maintenance, and repair and operations (MRO) specialists. Richman spoke to media members at the 2012 exclusive annual New Tool Symposium, which CONTRACTOR attended.

“Whether it is through the portability of the M12 and M18 cordless systems, time-saving accessories or our new innovative hand tool and test instrument product lines, Milwaukee is dedicated to delivering a steady stream of advanced solutions to MEP contractors that offer increased productivity and ease of use,” said Shane Moll, president of Power Tools for Milwaukee Tool. “From expanding into alternative installation technologies to focusing more on service, the mix of power tools available to increase productivity has changed the game. We see how competitive the markets can be and are focused on delivering innovative solutions that can help address those challenges.” 

Moll pointed out that installation trends and technologies in geothermal or water reclamation present significant opportunity for power tool companies to deliver innovation solutions.

“Recently, Milwaukee introduced their ForceLogic Press Tool line, delivering the smallest, lightest and most intelligent solution for copper and steel pipe press connections in the market,” said Moll. “While you may know Milwaukee for products like the Sawzall Recip Saw, that was only the beginning... Milwaukee’s industry-leading advancements in lithium-ion, motors and electronics have opened the door for products that will change the way the job will be done in the future, delivering unparalleled levels of performance and productivity.”

Purchasing tools

Where are contractors purchasing all their power tools these days? According to the Power Tool Use Survey, most contractors are likely to purchase their power tools from Industrial Supply Houses (57%) and/or Home Centers (55%), followed by plumbing wholesalers (43%); and a third make power tool purchases online (32%). Twenty-one percent of respondents are purchasing tools at the hardware store, and 19% are flipping through a catalog to make purchases.

Concerning voltage battery packs used for cordless power tools, survey respondents are most likely to use 18 volt battery packs for their cordless power tools (80%), with 12 volt battery packs following at a distant second (25%).

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